While in the middle of a phone conversation, Steve Oshins pumped his fist. Oshins, a perpetually multi-tasking trusts and estates lawyer, had one eye glued to the Nevada State Legislature's Web site that morning last spring. It showed that the pioneering bill he'd authored had been signed into law by the governor. "When I hung up the phone, my celebration made
Cuba Gooding Jr.'s celebration after his touchdown in the movie Jerry Maguire look tame," says Oshins.
Oshin's language in Senate Bill 350 created two new and unique estate planning tools: the Nevada restricted limited partnership and restricted limited liability company. Transferring an interest in one of these business entities to a family member, rather than an interest in a standard LLC or LP, can produce an additional transfer-tax valuation discount of between 10% and 35% beyond what may apply for other reasons, such as lack of control or marketability, Oshins says. "This law is the first of its kind," he says, beaming like a proud father.
This is the third progressive, client-friendly Nevada law penned by Oshins, 40. If you suspect that's good for business at Oshins & Associates LLC, the Las Vegas estate law boutique founded by his 67-year-old father Richard, you are right. "It definitely helps because it gives me instant credibility with potential clients as well as advisors," Steve says. "Almost all of our business comes from referrals, either from advisors or from current clients."
Drafting legislation is only one way in which the firm, comprising eight attorneys and nine support staff, continually lands what Richard calls "our share of the really good clients."
"Our clients are the equivalent of those at many of the bigger name law firms around the country, and it's basically from Steve and I doing a lot of speaking and writing," says Richard, a native of Long Island, N.Y., who came to appreciate a nice round of golf after relocating out west in the early 1970s. "That's how we can have the equivalent of a Wall Street practice and yet the quality of life of living in the suburbs of Las Vegas."
Richard is a long-time lecture circuit fixture whose first major article appeared more than 35 years ago in the Journal of Taxation. He sits on the advisory board of the revered New York University Institute on Federal Taxation, an annual conference that attracts tax professionals across the nation.
"Dick Oshins is astounding in his encyclopedic
understanding of wide areas of the tax law and is constantly coming up
with creative ways of using the tax law for the ultra-wealthy. He's
been known for that for years," says Steve Leimberg, CEO of Leimberg
Information Services Inc., a tax news and analysis service. "There
really isn't anybody major in the estate planning profession who
doesn't know Dick Oshins. He's used as a sounding board by some of the
brightest minds in the profession."
Son Steve started writing at a precocious professional age, snagging a Best Young Author award from Trusts & Estates magazine while in his 20s. Steve recalls, "I understood even back then how important marketing is and that an author is often considered an expert. Writing technical articles on advanced techniques, speaking on those techniques at national conferences and authoring laws are all ways to market oneself and, in my opinion, are the reason I have gotten so many billionaire clients over the years."
The biggest fish aren't necessarily the ones his father covets the most, however. "If you think about it, to a client worth a couple of billion dollars, what you do is almost insignificant, and there's probably somebody who's going to look over your shoulder," Richard says. "I like the client that is in the $20 million to $100 million range. If we can help them pass their business to their family, lower the tax bite and creditor-protect the assets, they are really very appreciative. I like it when I can see that I have improved a family's future."
At The Office
This isn't one of those stories where the son was destined from birth to work alongside the father, although while growing up, Steve, like the scion of many self-employed individuals, certainly spent time at his father's place of business. "When my kids were 12, 13 years old, they worked in the office so that they could see what I did," Richard recalls. In high school during the summers, Steve was the firm's runner. His duties expanded to include computer work during breaks from college.
It wasn't until his last few weeks of law school that the father-son team was formally born. A large life carrier had offered Steve a job marketing estate planning techniques. But he decided not to take it and instead moved back to Vegas to work for Richard. "I figured that that would give me the better long-term prospects," Steve says. "Also, my father and I get along really well, so that made the choice very simple."
Richard adds that unlike some parent-child relationships, "there wasn't any friction between us when Steve was growing up. It's always been a very comfortable relationship."
When Steve arrived for work at Oshins & Associates in 1994 as a lawyer, he and Richard quickly discovered to their mutual delight that they had complementary work styles. Soon Steve was the firm's managing attorney. "He loves to do that," Richard says, "and I don't like to do that."
Wanted: A Solid No. 3
Over the next several years, the Oshins would occasionally hire another lawyer or two, but they wouldn't last. Things never quite worked out. Growth seemed elusive. Then along came a young attorney named Heidi Freeman.
"Heidi was the one that allowed us to grow," says Steve. "It's difficult to grow when the first two lawyers have to review everything the third lawyer does. But once we finally found a third lawyer who was self-sufficient, it was possible for us to bring in enough additional business to need to hire a fourth lawyer." That was Kristen Simmons in 2004, whose performance fostered further growth and led to the 2005 hiring of Katie Colombo.